RESIDENTS of Maiden Newton have slammed Network Rail for starting overnight engineering works nearly a month before schedule – without any prior warning.

Homeowners in Bull Lane, Station Road and Stanstead Road said the work, which is expected to cost the company £2million and will take place for the next 50 nights, is keeping them up at night and have accused National Rail of being heavy handed in its approach.

One Bull Lane resident, who wished not to be named, said: “What’s even worse is that although we have received a one-page notification telling us that the work will start in July, it did in fact start two weeks ago without any prior notification at all.

“Last night we had what sounded like chain saws cutting metal at 1am, and on that night we were not aware any work was scheduled to take place.

“Many of the residents have young families and a lot of residents are finding it difficult to sleep, and we have another three months of this – virtually every night of the week.”

The engineering works to the Wessex Line between Maiden Newton and Dorchester will involve removing the old track by crane, excavating the track bed and then replacing the ballast, sleepers, rail and other components using specialised road-rail machines.

Network Rail sent a letter to neighbours of the railway, and in a copy obtained by the Echo, the letter is dated Friday, June 6 and says that the overnight work, which will start at 10am and finish at 9.30am, will begin on Monday, July 14 and that it is scheduled to be completed by October 10.

However, residents claim that work started two weeks ago with no prior warning.

Residents are also angry about the approach of Network Rail concerning the work. They say they have only received one sheet of paper telling them the work will take place and they have not been visited by anyone from Network Rail, First Great Western or the contractors who are undertaking the work.

One of the residents said when she contacted Network Rail to complain, she was told she would be sent industrial ear plugs.

She said: “Earplugs are not the answer. Network Rail is our neighbour but they have taken a very heavy handed attitude in all this.

“It must have taken quite a lot of planning to schedule this work and make the arrangements but at no time did anybody consider talking to the residents and getting their view.

“So now we’ve got noisy gangs working and banging and crashing all night – and the work is not supposed to have started yet.”

A spokesman for National Rail said: “The work on the railway around Maiden Newton is part of a £2m investment in the line to improve and upgrade the track to modern standards.

“The scale of the work meant that it was divided into packages for different contractors and regrettably a mix-up in the letters we sent out meant that our neighbours in the Maiden Newton area -specifically Bull Lane - were not notified as they should have been.

“While the work we are doing is taking place out in open country, and not in Maiden Newton, the only access point we have to the railway for miles on either side is off Bull Lane.

“As a result, residents there will hear our crews when they take their machinery on and off the track and also remove waste materials from the distant work site.

“We have to do that work at night when trains are not running and therefore it is vitally important that we keep our neighbours informed of our movements.

“That was where we fell down and we apologise for the unexpected disruption.”